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Initial results of Youth Villages transitional living program study point toward successful evaluation

April 30, 2014

The first results from a randomized study of Youth Villages’ transitional living services point toward a valid evaluation of the program, said Michelle Manno, research associate with MDRC, the national social research agency conducting the study.


“Our report shows that the transitional living program in Tennessee has been implemented as we would have expected,” she said. MDRC’s implementation and participation findings are published in a 124-page report, Moving Into Adulthood.

The first impact results from the study should be available in mid-2015. Those results will show if the program is effective as compared to usual services for former foster children in Tennessee.

The program helps youth who were formerly in foster care, the juvenile justice system or who otherwise find themselves unprepared for adult life and need help making the transition to adulthood.

Findings of the implementation phase of the study include:

  • A sufficient number of participants were recruited for the study. More than 1,300 youth from across Tennessee who aged out of foster care at age 18 are participating in the study. The number of participants exceeded the needed sample size.
  • Youth Villages’ staff implemented the program model as outlined and followed core principals and systems for service delivery, supervision and quality assurance.
  • Access to social services, transportation and employment and education opportunities for these young people varied widely across the state. Differences in local services affected Youth Villages TL staff’s ability to develop connections with those services and youth options in the absence of the program.
  • All program group members participated in at least one transitional living program service and a substantial portion received services at the expected level and intensity.

The program is a public-private partnership between Youth Villages and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. For the study, the two partnered with MDRC and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Grants from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation fund the study.

The Youth Villages program provides specialists who help young people secure housing, pursue educational and employment goals, access health and mental health services; learn such independent living skills as budgeting, cooking, cleaning and shopping; and create and maintain healthy relationships with family and others.

This year, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to offer comprehensive services to every youth who ages out of foster care through the Youth Villages transitional living program and other resources.

Mark Courtney, senior researcher at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, is leading the study. Courtney is the principal investigator for the Midwest Evaluation of Former Foster Youth, the country’s most significant evaluation of youth who have aged out of foster care.

“The Tennessee study is one of the largest experimental evaluations ever conducted in the child welfare services field and the largest by far of a program focused on improving the transition to adulthood for foster youth,” Courtney said. “It will provide invaluable evidence to the field regarding ‘what works’ for foster youth.”

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